The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has raised concerns regarding non-compliance by Returning Officers (ROs) with instructions from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), citing violations that undermine transparency in the electoral process and urging the ECP to investigate non-compliance by ROs.
In a statement released on Monday FAFEN stressed the significance of adhering to legal provisions for ensuring transparency, particularly during the preparation of provisional and consolidated election results.
According to FAFEN’s observations, ROs in 135 out of 260 National Assembly constituencies failed to adhere to legal provisions outlined in the Elections Act, 2017. This non-compliance includes the denial of access to FAFEN observers during the tabulation process in 135 constituencies, violating the rights of contesting candidates, their agents, and accredited observers to witness result consolidation.
Furthermore, FAFEN highlighted discrepancies in the handling of Form-45 and Form-46 by ROs, with instances of bags being opened without the presence of candidates or their agents.
Additionally, arithmetic errors in Form-45 were reported in 53 constituencies, where ROs instructed Presiding Officers to correct errors with initials before re-submitting electronically instead of with their signatures as required by Rule 84(3) Elections Rules, 2017.
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The chaotic environment at tabulation centres due to inadequate arrangements for Presiding Officers further exacerbated concerns. Long queues of vehicles, lack of seating, and food arrangements contributed to disorderly proceedings in 66 constituencies, hindering the timely submission of election results and materials.
Section 55 of the Elections Act, 2017 grants the ECP authority to take action against erring election officials, public servants, and individuals in the service of Pakistan.
While acknowledging the operational challenges posed by logistical constraints, FAFEN underscored the importance of electoral transparency and called on the ECP to probe non-compliance by ROs.